Pascal Dusapin

The music of contemporary French composer Pascal Dusapin is marked by microtonality, tension and energy. A pupil of Iannis Xenakis and Franco Donatoni and an admirer of Varèse, Dusapin studied at the University of Paris I and Paris VIII during the 1970s. His music is full of “romantic constraint”, and he rejects the use of electronics, percussion other than timpani, and, up until the late 1990s, piano. His melodies have a vocal quality, even in purely instrumental works. Dusapin has composed solo, chamber, orchestral, vocal, and choral works, as well as several operas, and has been honored with numerous prizes and awards.

Besides being influenced by composers such as Varèse and Xenakis who dealt with sound masses, Dusapin’s music also shows the influence of other musical traditions, including jazz. Beginning in the late 1980s with his piece Aks (1987) and continuing into the 1990s, Dusapin incorporated French folk music into his musical language. In Aks, Dusapin immediately quotes a folk-melody, but the rest of the piece is composed independently from the folk song. Dusapin’s work from the 1990s further illustrates the influence of folk music through its frequent use of drones and use of restricted modes, though most often without obvious tonal centers.

One way in which Dusapin stands out from other contemporary composers is through his selection of certain instruments and rejection of others. Unlike even Xenakis, he avoids the use of electronics and technology in his music. Likewise, he has removed the use of percussion other than timpani from his works. At one time he also rejected the use of keyboard instruments, but since that time, he has completed Trio Rombach (1997), for piano, violin or clarinet, and cello, and a piece for solo piano, Sept í‰tudes (1999—2001).

Other prominent works by Dusapin include Musique captive (1980) and Musique fugitive (1980); La Rivière (1979) and L'Aven (1980—81); Niobé ou le Rocher de Sypile (1982); and the opera Roméo et Juliette (1985—88).